Book Challenges:

Questions, Resources and Suggestions for School Librarians

This flyer was developed by Daniella Smith, PhD.

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Questions for Proactive School Librarians

  1. Does the school library have a selection policy?
  2. Is the school library policy in compliance with the district policy?
  3. Does the policy identify who should be contacted for challenges?
  4. Is the school community involved the selection process?
  5. Do you know exactly why you have purchased controversial materials?
  6. Do you know the community that your school is in?
  7. Do you understand your students' needs and wants?
  8. Have you educated your school about intellectual freedom?
  9. Is your selection policy readily available or easy to access?
  10. Do you have a committee in place for challenges?

Selection Policy Components (Mardis, 2016, p. 58-64)

Statement of Philosophy

School district values and beliefs

School mission and Goals

References to:

  • ALA Library Bill of Rights
  • ALA Freedom to Read Statement

Selection Objectives

Convert school mission and goals into collection goals

Materials collected

Rationale for collection

  • May include reference to the purpose of collecting controversial materials

What should be achieved with collection

Responsibility for Selection

Distinguish between texts and library materials

School board legally responsible

  • School librarian as a delegate

Selection participants

  • Role of each stakeholder in school community
  • Gathering input
  • Committee vs. School librarian (ultimate decision)

Selection Criteria

Two Parts

  1. General criteria related to district and/or school goals
  2. Criteria for formats (including equipment and electronic formats)


Criteria typically same as selection criteria

Specific statements about acceptance and rejections

Include currency statement

Include restrictions and conditions statement

Provision of letters and receipts

Controversial Material Policy

Discussion of related school district policies

Support for the First Amendment & Intellectual Freedom

Reconsideration Policy

Procedures for handling complaints

  • Meet with advisory board
  • Implement approval process
ALA Workbook for Selection Policy Writing

Tips for Responding to Challenges (Bucher & Hinton, 2014)

  1. Listen and respond.
  2. Be professional.
  3. Avoid judgement.
  4. Work quickly.
  5. Try to keep it informal.
  6. Follow procedures.
  7. Read the materials.
  8. Inform administrators immediately.
  9. Work with committee.
  10. Document the process.
  11. Communicate in writing.
  12. Know support systems.
  13. Report the challenge.
  14. Be transparent.


American Library Association. (2016). Top ten frequently challenged books lists of the 21st century. Retrieved from

Bucher, K. T., & Hinton, K. V. (2014). Young adult literature: Exploration, evaluation, and appreciation. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Mardis, M. (2016). The collection program in schools: Concepts and practices. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.